Gut Check: Keeping Your Digestive System Healthy

Gut health is more important than we sometimes realize. It’s easy to take for granted the fact that we eat food, absorb some and get rid of the rest. What we often forget is that what we eat and how we treat our gastrointestinal tract can affect mood just as much as it can affect whether or not we have gas. Here are a few digestion-related issues to be aware of when also thinking of your gut health.

Heartburn

Heartburn is incredibly common, and is caused when gastric acid enters the esophagus (the tube connecting the stomach and mouth). It is very important to be certain of the source of your chest pain. Assuming it could be reflux first could be unwise, so check with your doctor to help rule out heart disease. You can help prevent heartburn by avoiding:

  • ·       Overeating
  • ·       Eating at bedtime
  • ·       Tight-fitting clothes, which could constrict your abdomen
  • ·       Medications that could make it worse (consult with your doctor)
  • ·       Straining
  • ·       Heavy Lifting
  • ·       Smoking
  • ·       Fatty foods, caffeine, chocolate and peppermint

Peptic Ulcer Disease

Ulcers affect the first part of the small intestine or stomach. They are sores, sometimes caused by bacterial infection. They are not always accompanied by pain, though the most common symptom is abdominal pain. They are sometimes a side effect of certain anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers. Many types of ulcers can be prevented, and there are some treatments for them. Avoid alcohol, smoking cigarettes and emotional stress, as they are thought to be able to influence the development of ulcers.

Gallstone Disease

Your liver produces bile, which is then stored in your bladder. If that bile forms hardened deposits, those are called gallstones. They usually take many years to develop, although in some cases it may only take months. In people over 55 years of age, 10 percent of men and 20 percent of women have gallstones.

If you experience rapid weight loss you are at risk of developing small gallstones. A low-fat diet may generally help in the long run, but gallstones can rarely be prevented.

GI Tract and Circulatory Disorders

If there is a reduction of blood flow to your colon, disallowing it to function normally, then you have developed ischemia. It tends to go away within days, and the healing takes about two weeks. Antibiotics are typically prescribed.

You may also develop acute mesenteric ischemia when there is inadequate blood flow to the small intestine.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Also known as having an “irritable colon” or “spastic colon,” Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not considered a disease, and the cause is unknown. It may be psychological, or diet related. Diet modification, psychiatric therapy and modification of your diet may help.

Practice Mindful Eating

It doesn’t have to be a diet, but whatever you’re putting into your body, take the time to figure out its value to you, nutritionally as well as emotionally. If your gut can affect how you feel overall, you’ll want to figure out what your favorite foods do to influence your moods.

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